Tag Archives: short stories

TWO EYES OPEN!

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS! Submit your stories!

DEADLINE MARCH 31

MacKenzie Publishing is accepting fiction submissions for its second anthology, stories for 18+, titled TWO EYES OPEN (horror, suspense, thriller, mystery, etc.).

Submission deadline: March 31, 2017

Payment: $10 Canadian per story, paid via Paypal

Word count: 2,500 to 5,000 words
Publication date: August 1, 2017

MacKenzie Publishing does not accept material that has been published previously, either online or in print. By submitting to MacKenzie Publishing, you are assuring you hold the rights to the work and grant MacKenzie Publishing the right to publish the submitted work. MacKenzie Publishing will require exclusive rights to the stories until December 31, 2017.

To Submit:
Paste info and document in the body of an email (no attachments) in this order:
-Title of story, your name, email, word count
-Story
-Bio (up to 150 words)

Email stories to MacKenzie Publishing at: TwoEyesOpenAnthology@gmail.com

Put the title of your submission in the subject line.

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The Spot Writers – “A Road of Anthracite” by Dorothy Colinco

Welcome to the Spot Writers, bringing you a weekly dose of flash fiction. Today’s prompt involves a bit of fun: Pick up the two books closest to you. For the first book: copy the first 3 words of the book. This is how your story will start. For the second book: copy the last 3 words of the book. This is how your story will end. Fill in the middle. As an added challenge, turn to a random page in each book. Choose the most interesting word on each of those pages. Include those 2 words in your story.

This week’s story comes from Dorothy Colinco. Check out her blog for fiction, books reviews, and book news.

***

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – First three words: It was 7; Bonus word: Wellington

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk – Last three words: road of anthracite; Bonus word: transatlantic

***

A Road of Anthracite by Dorothy Colinco

It was 7 years after that first meeting that we spoke again. The first time was initiated by me, but chance had its hand in our second meeting.

In the moments when I thought about my good fortune, the bounty of my life, I was sometimes checked by a sudden realization, a miscalculation of the good and the bad, and I’d remember, “Oh yes, I have a brother who has rejected my very existence,” and I would read a doorstop of a novel or paint or review the taxes of the small business whom I worked for until I no longer remembered.

I remember walking along 7th Avenue, perfectly content in this city that was supposedly overdone and stale and gentrified and no longer the center of the universe, though it still was to me. I was headed to the restaurant, the one he suggested after I requested a meeting. I didn’t have to explain who I was. He must have known by my name on social media, but even without that, my picture gave him clues The end of my nose, my hooded eyelids, the fullness of my top lip.

I remember reading the menu posted outside the restaurant, entrees I had never hear of at the time – beef wellington, niçois salad, escargot. I was about to give the hostess my name when I saw him at a small table in the corner of the room. I had never seen him before, but I too had clues: his hairline, the arch of his brows, his cheekbones, so like my own. The resemblance to a face that was forever lost to me hurt.

As I sat down, he looked up, and I thought I saw him startle as he too registered the resemblance before he took on a neutral air.

He reached into his briefcase and took out a checkbook.

“How much do you need?”

“What? I don’t – That’s not what I-” I stared at the pen hovering above the table. “That’s not what I wanted.”

He seemed confused, and then, irritated.

“What, then?”

I suppose I wanted to tell him that I was angry at being rejected for no reason, that I was sad about our father passing, that I was again angry that I’d been deprived of someone who had access to memories of him. But at 23, I didn’t know all those things, or at least I didn’t know how to say them out loud.

And so I left. I didn’t want his money. I didn’t even need it. I was doing very well for myself. My modest flat was exactly that, but it was also paid for each month, on time.

I was 30 when we met again. This time, I was not a discarded half-sibling licking the wounds of rejection but an accountant at a law firm who published short stories in little-known magazines in her spare time. I had moved into a different but still modest flat, and my tendency toward everyday simplicity afforded my occasional luxuries, like the transatlantic cruise we had unknowingly both booked; I was with my close friend, and he was with his wife. It was at the piano bar that we found each other. My friend Claire had found a beau on the ship who invited her to dinner, so I sat alone at the bar while listening to Piano Man. In another setting, it may have been too on the nose, but floating on the Atlantic Ocean with strangers whom I’d see for another 7 days, it was pitch perfect.

It was then that the bartender brought over a drink paid for by “the gentleman over there.” I almost waved it away, but I noticed a tilt of the head that was not unfamiliar, the bar lights glinting off cheekbones that were like the ones I brushed highlighting powder on earlier that evening.

I didn’t touch the drink for a while. Condensation was slipping off the glass when I finally picked it up and brought it to my lips. It was bitter, with an underlying current of something sweet and bright, like citrus.

I couldn’t discern what this drink was – an olive branch? A bridge? A door, perhaps, opened after being shut forcibly and for so long.

As I stood and moved toward the seat across him, I decided it was a road, though not an easy or pretty one. It was rough and hard and unforgiving. It was still a road, though it was a road of anthracite.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

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The Spot Writers – “Goodbye” by Val Muller

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The prompt for this month: As the year ends, we’ll focus on the topic of Endings and New Beginnings. Keeping with the December theme, a fruitcake must also appear somewhere in your story.

Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the YA reboot The Scarred Letter. Also check out her new YA novel The Man with the Crystal Ankh, releasing on December 12. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N75XTGK/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_l6KpybDE49H9B

***

Goodbye

The soft sounds of snoring carried over the crackling fire, and Elenore glanced over her family. Jill and Michael slumped together in the love seat, the contents of their empty wine glasses ruddying their cheeks. On the floor in front of the fire, Megan dozed in the sleepy embrace of her new fiancé. Her diamond ring sparkled against the flames, and their four-month old snoozed next to them in his bouncy chair. His chubby cheeks drew up into a smile as if he knew that his parents’ Christmas engagement was something to celebrate. And Michael Junior was asleep in the beanbag chair, the screen of his hand-held gaming toy turning his face orange and green and blue.

Next to each, an uneaten slice of fruitcake. It had been her mother’s tradition for years, a tradition Elenore kept when she made her home. Except her homemade fruitcake had been delicious. Jill—busy, busy Jill—had bought it from the store. A hard brick of a cake. Elenore had pretended not to hear the groans, especially from Michel Junior, about the outdated tradition. Family these days had outgrown such things. And so the slices would be deposited into the trash after Elenore was collected again for the Home.

And Elenore? She shifted in her wheelchair, adjusting the blanket around her shoulders. She never thought she’d live to be a great-grandmother, but there she was, thrice blessed, and for four whole months now. Jonathan Thomas would have loved the little babe. In fact, she saw her husband’s glow in the little tyke’s eyes.

She glanced around the room at the typical post-Christmas mess. The wrapping paper balls, the tangled ribbons, the half-strewn trash bags. Elenore wished she could tidy up for them. Always so much for the young to do. If only she could help. But these old bones were all but useless.

“Can’t be walking around anymore,” the doctor had said. Old bones can’t handle it. So brittle they might snap. It’s why they installed the wheelchair alarm, to alert the nurses at the Home in the event that Elenore tried to go out walking again. Terrible shrieking contraption, that. Scared the living daylights out of her the first time it went off.

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Her diaper had needed changing for an hour now, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to bother Jill about it. She’d just wait ‘til the van from the Home came for her.

That was her life now, anyway. Waiting. What was another hour? She glanced at the sparkling bag dangling over her arm rest. What gift had they given her again? Was it a necklace? A candle? Maybe that was last year. She couldn’t remember anymore. She had no use for gifts, anyway. Even for the gift of time. All she wanted lived in memory.

The day darkened to twilight, and she glanced out the sliding glass door, enjoying the rare moment. The nurses at the Home always pulled the shades tight by 4 p.m. They said the residents went a little crazy at twilight, sundowning with the day. They said twilight was the most dangerous time for people in the Home. Best they slipped into nighttime unknowingly, peacefully.

Like dying in one’s sleep.

But it was a silly superstition. Nothing odd or upsetting about the sun going down. Elenore smiled at the reflection in the glass against the setting sun. Those eyes.

I missed those eyes.

Jonathan Thomas stood tall, his shoulders as broad as ever. He motioned for her.

What, me? Go outside in the snow at this time of day?

“It’s the best time,” he answered. “The moon’s out here on the north side. Come see. I’ll keep you warm.”

She struggled against the rubber lap desk they’d stuck in her wheelchair. It was meant to hold her in place, since the alarm didn’t seem to do the trick. Nasty thing, that lap desk. Near impossible to remove. Not from a seated position. Not with brittle bones. Maybe Michael Junior would help.

“No.” Jonathan Thomas shook his head. “Let the boy sleep. Come. Just you.”

She glanced around. Everyone was still snoring. No sense waking them. Maybe Jonathan Thomas was right. Maybe it was time for a new adventure.

The glass door slid smoothly open, almost as if it were made of gossamer strands of moonlight. Her legs felt strong again, and her feet crunched easily through the snow. She’d forgotten what it was to stand, and she nearly stumbled, but J.T. was there to catch her.

I missed your eyes.

“I know,” he said.

She took a step out to the yard, but J.T. stayed put. “You sure you’re ready?” he asked. “This is it.”

She turned around. This time, she looked the other way through the glass at the warm orange glow surrounding her sleeping family—her daughter and son-in-law, her grandson and granddaughter, her grandson-in-law and their child, all sleeping. And there in the corner, finally seeming at peace in the wheelchair, was someone who looked the way she looked once, her skin sagging with the years, her hair wispy and white. That couldn’t be her, could it? Not her her.

No, best leave her be. That Elenore lived a thousand eternities ago. That Elenore wasn’t her, not truly. Best leave her be, then. She was sleeping now.

As for Elenore, the real Elenore, she grasped J.T.’s hand and turned toward the beautiful moonlight, and they started out together.

Another adventure awaited.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Dorothy Colinco. www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

 

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Give Anthologies a Chance!

(This post first appeared on Val Muller’s Blog on August 31, 2016.)

Give Anthologies a Chance!

I’ll be honest: anthologies aren’t a great sell, perhaps rated just above poetry collections, yet I think shorts are wonderful to read.

On August 1, 2016, I published (under my imprint, MacKenzie Publishing) my first anthology, a book of 21 short stories by 21 authors, titled OUT OF THE CAVE.

  

 

OUT OF THE CAVE is packed to the brim with horror-themed stories suitable for teens and youth. And, despite anthologies not being the rage, I plan to publish another anthology next year, titled TWO EYES OPEN, this time for adults.

Two Eyes Open FB

People don’t have long attention spans anymore, so readers should be clamouring for short stories. I love shorts—both to read and to write. I’ve published several collections of my own stories and am always on the lookout for anthologies to purchase and read.

On August 2, Hope Clark, a successful author, was gracious enough to write a guest post on my blog that she titled “The Short Reality of Shorts.” She stated:

As a writer, short pieces scare me. As a six-time novelist and one-time nonfiction book author, I find comfort in longer prose. But I have to admit . . . there’s no writing more profound than a short that snaps in its delivery. Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing.

OUT OF THE CAVE is my “pride and joy” (to use a cliché). It’s my baby, and I don’t hesitate spamming and publicizing wherever and whenever (versus promoting my own writings). Sales have been “okay” though not as great as I had hoped. But, hey, I’m not dead yet; OUT OF THE CAVE can still be a best seller!

I created the cover for the book from a photo of one of the many caves on Phia Beach in New Zealand. Until I had completed the cover, I hadn’t realized a ghostly image peeked through the sunlight between the rocks. I first thought the “ghost” was Hubby and then, suddenly, recognized myself. Funny, because I have no recollection posing for that shot.

I lucked out when I snagged Steve Vernon, a prolific local (Nova Scotia, Canada) writer of ghost stories and such, to write the foreword to OUT OF THE CAVE. Part of his awesome foreword reads:

Kids of all ages CONSTANTLY live in the shadow of fear. Am I going to be good enough? Are my parents going to get divorced? Am I going to be popular enough? Will Dad lose his job? Can I pass that darned math test? Will those bullies leave me alone?

Fear—kids live in it constantly—and a good scary story teaches a kid how to deal with fear. And THAT, more than anything else, is why you ought to let your kids read all of the scary stories that they can get their hands on.

So let’s do that today.

Pick up this book and buy it and give it to your kid.

Let’s drag scary stories out of the darkness of the cave.

Several stories in OUT OF THE CAVE were written by local authors; others are from writers living in Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and other parts of Canada. The stories are a mix of horror, supernatural, suspense, mystery, and thriller—but totally PG13, suitable for teens 13 and up. Adults, too, would enjoy them, though those readers might want to wait for TWO EYES OPEN.

And speaking of my next anthology, TWO EYES OPEN, I need to snare a famous horror writer to write that foreword. I do have an individual in mind (perhaps another “Steve”?). We shall see….

Though I enjoyed the process of publishing OUT OF THE CAVE, the book was more work than I had anticipated. I gathered the stories, which resulted from a submissions call I widely publicized, and weeded the best from the bunch. I read each story several times, corresponded with the authors, edited the stories, formatted the book, and published it.

Whew! But all that effort pales in comparison to promotion and garnering sales.

Writers need sales. What’s the good of publishing a book if no one purchases and/or reads it?

My purpose for OUT OF THE CAVE was to encourage teens/youth to read. And who doesn’t enjoy an excellent ghost story?

Shirley, an adult reader/local purchaser, stated:

Good mix of disturbing stories. Some of the stories keep coming back to haunt my dreams. Not sure if I’d want to deal with kids in my house who might want Mommy reassurance after they experienced similar nightmares. All the stories are well-written and/or well-edited.

So, hey, give anthologies a chance—whether mine or another! OUT OF THE CAVE would make an excellent birthday, Christmas, or all-occasion gift for a son/daughter, grandchild, or other deserving youth. Purchase here!

Please leave a review, whether good or bad. Reviews help us indie authors capture sales.

OUT OF THE CAVE Facebook Page

TWO EYES OPEN Facebook Page

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The Short Reality of Shorts

This week (yesterday, in fact) is the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s first anthology, OUT OF THE CAVE: twenty-one stories by twenty-one writers suitable for youth 13+. Suspense, mystery, horror, supernatural…what more could a teenager (or adult) want? And, for those of you in the Atlantic Provinces, you will recognize Nova Scotia’s Steve Vernon, who wrote the Foreword. OUT OF THE CAVE is available as an e-book and print book on Amazon and Smashwords

 

 

Hope Clark has graciously written today’s guest post, “The Short Reality of Shorts,” which (coincidentally) coincides with the release of MacKenzie Publishing’s book of short stories. Hope is an inspiration to all writers! Her blog http://www.FundsForWriters.com is always pertinent and reaches 35,000 readers every week. And her books are well received. What more could an author want? (Further info on Hope and her books is at the end of this post.)

Thank you, Hope, for this post!

***

The Short Reality of Shorts by Hope Clark

As a writer, short pieces scare me. As a six-time novelist and one-time nonfiction book author, I find comfort in longer prose. But I have to admit . . . there’s no writing more profound that a short that snaps in its delivery.

Short fiction, flash fiction, memoir, and essays. It takes intense craft to make those pieces zing. So when the Killer Nashville mystery conference asked that I contribute to their mystery anthology, I almost choked. Sure, I write mystery . . . 100,000-word mysteries. But to take crime, clues, and characters and mold them into a 3,000-word package, scared me senseless. But I accepted the challenge.

And I think “Rich Talk” turned into some of my best writing.

Every novelist sooner or later pens a short story. And those shorts, while, um, short, often become more memorable than longer works. Ask Stephen King. Shorts exercise different writing muscles. The reader isn’t allowed a lull, and each sentence carries more weight. But that twist in the end . . . that wow factor . . . shows the power of words, and therefore, the power of you as a writer. Shorts must deliver serious oomph.

Anthologies of shorts can be power houses. With anthologies ranging anywhere from ten to maybe fifty stories, each tale has to represent the theme with enough talent to make the reader want to read the others. A heavy responsibility upon each author as well as the editor compiling the collection. But when an editor has a keen eye, and the slush pile of stories is great and deep, an anthology can turn into an admirable portfolio credit for all involved. And a treasure trove for readers.

Memoir and creative nonfiction hold the same responsibility, and the same demands are made of their authors. Though the pieces may be taken from reality, like the myriad Chicken Soup anthology tales, they must still read like a short story with a solid beginning, middle, and nice-and-tight swing around ending. Reading like good fiction, creative nonfiction recalls a moment and spins it into a concise, well-told tale. It just happens to be steeped in real life.

So many writers start with shorts because book-length material rattles them. The thought of so many chapters intimidates them. Me? I’m just the opposite because I know the tight, well-constructed thought process that goes into a successful short. And every time I read one that resonates, that tells a story with a snap, crackle, and pop, I so wish I’d written it.

I’ve just released Echoes of Edisto, the third book in my Edisto Island Mysteries, and I’ll continue writing my books, but here and there now I’ll make myself create a short. Why? Because those muscles need exercising, and the sharpness of talent that goes into a short is admirable indeed. I also want to be that kind of writer.

***

BIO: Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters.com, a newsletter and website that reaches 35,000 readers every Friday. She is also author of the Carolina Slade Mysteries and the Edisto Island Mysteries, with the newest release being Echoes of Edisto. www.chopeclark.com

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Call for Submissions – Horror for Teens

MacKenzie Publishing is accepting fiction submissions for its first anthology, a horror/suspense anthology for teens, tentatively titled OUT OF THE CAVE. Please ensure stories are suitable for that age group. Stories should have a teen protagonist.

Submission deadline: April 30, 2016 (or when anthology is full)

Payment: $10 Canadian per story, paid via Paypal upon publication

Word count: 2,000 to 5,000 words

Publication date (print and e-books): on or before September 1, 2016

MacKenzie Publishing does not accept material which has been published previously, either online or in print. By submitting to MacKenzie Publishing, you are assuring that you hold the rights to the work and are granting MacKenzie Publishing the rights to edit and publish the submitted work. MacKenzie Publishing requires exclusive rights for 12 months from date of publication.

To Submit:
Paste info and document in the body of an email (no attachments) in this order:
-Title of story, your name, email, word count
-Story
-Bio (up to 150 words)

Email stories to MacKenzie Publishing at: MacKenzieSubs@gmail.com.
Put the title of your submission in the subject line.

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The Spot Writers – “Synced In,” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week’s flash fiction comes to you from Val Muller, author of the young adult novel The Scarred Letter, a book dealing with bullying and truth in a world that lives a lie.

The prompt for this month: Opening sentence: “It’s still not clear what started it all.” Closing sentence: “What can be done to change that?”

Synced In

By Val Muller

It’s not clear what started it all. It may have been the Fitbit craze, the obsession over fitness-tracking watches and smartphone apps tracking movement, exercise, and calories. It may have been people’s use of GPS technology as a crutch, or the constant need to feel connected.

But now everyone at school was Synced In.

Except Charlie.

His parents were old school. Really old school. They’d home-schooled him until the tenth grade, at which point he needed the advanced courses offered at the local high school. When he first got there, he didn’t know how to log on to a computer, let alone use a mouse for that matter.

Not that many people were using a mouse anymore.

Now, the students held their fingers up to the sensor, and they were logged in, able to save their work, able to access countless databases. In gym class (they made Charlie take Gym with the freshmen), students logged into a computer terminal to track their pulses, their activity levels, and their caloric intakes for the day. Charlie was surprised there was no actual physical activity.

Charlie, who had not been Synced, flipped pages on an old-fashioned book with his old-fashioned finger and read about the benefits of cardiovascular work—without being asked to get up from his desk.

In fact, the teachers were all pretty lax compared to the books Charlie had read in preparation for life in public school. The teachers in the books were always sly and sneaky. They all seemed to have eyes in the back of their heads, to catch students sneaking around, and to have all kinds of clever ways of inspiring students into caring just a bit more about life.

Maybe books were art and life was life.

Or maybe life had just become too synced.

These teachers walked around with a small tablet attached to their belts the same way cops walked around with guns in the detective stories Charlie read as a kid. Attendance was taken as the students walked into the classroom—their Sync Chips scanned by each classroom’s infrared sensor. The teachers needed only to input Charlie’s presence manually, a task they did with the subtlest eye roll.

“Charlie, we need to get you Synced,” they would sigh.

They also had to manually enter his grades. With no finger sensor for him to log into the network, he could not complete the online courses the way the other students did. At first, he was met again with eye rolls. But after a while, his physics teacher seemed to enjoy the quaintness of a pen-and-paper activity. In the absence of immediate online feedback, Mr. Bloomton sat down with Charlie to review formulas and problem sets, to talk of theories and the best way to solve each assignment.

With the other kids, he simply checked their progress on his tablet, making sure the data fed correctly into his grading program.

Before long, Mr. Bloomton had spoken with Mr. Frierson, the public speaking teacher. The class couldn’t understand why Frierson abandoned the computer’s speech algorithm one day and asked the students to deliver an impromptu speech—actually standing in front of the class with everyone actually watching and not logged into their computers.

The next day, gym teachers around the school were perplexed at the irregular pulse rate and calorie readings reported from students’ devices, and they, too, spent time away from the automated programs. The students were especially tired that week, and parents came to visit—in person—with concerns about anomalous readings on their children’s devices.

With all the human interaction, teachers were more tired than usual, prompting calls from doctors’ offices calling for actual appointments rather than virtual ones. It made for a crazy week for most, but when Charlie’s parents asked him how he enjoyed being a public school student, he simply shrugged.

“A little different from what I expected at first, but now it seems to be a bit closer to normal. I probably would prefer to remain home schooled, but there is something unique about human interaction that I just can’t get at home. Besides, I need those upper-level science and match classes, so what can be done to change that?”

~*~

The Spot Writers–our members:

 RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Tom Robson: Blog pending

 

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The Spot Writers – “The Mailman,” by RC Bonitz

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a story using three of the following words  – tender, dreamy, boss, week, lamp, table.

 

Today’s contribution comes from RC Bonitz, author of A BLANKET FOR HER HEART. His latest book, DANGEROUS DECISIONS, will be published soon.

THE MAILMAN

The young woman lifted the end of the table and carefully lowered it again. It was a process she repeated regularly, deciding whether she could move an item by herself. Most of the time it was about a piece of furniture, but last week it was a pair of large paintings in heavy frames and she had concluded then that she needed help. Today’s decision came out the same way. She groaned inwardly. Whenever she asked Uncle Dan to help her move something she ended up with twice as much work. He’d always find some way to improve the display by moving ten other things around and she’d wish she’d done the first move by herself. His wife, Grace, had cut up a small carpet and shown her how to slip pieces of it under the legs of heavy chests and tables so she could slide them across the floor alone. Dan would have had a fit if he’d known what Grace had done, but they had promised each other not to tell him. Grace told her the damn carpet was a piece of junk that she’d been trying to get rid of for ages, but Dan complained that an antique shop couldn’t make money if they kept deciding their stock was worthless. Grace had surreptitiously reduced the price on the rug more than once, but it had still been in its corner collecting dust.

“What if he asks about it?” she asked Grace.

“Millie, if he notices that it’s missing I’ll eat my hat right out in front of the shop with a brass band playing. If he says anything just say you don’t know. Better still; tell him someone probably stole it. That’ll make him mad, but he’ll be happy that he was right about someone wanting it,” Grace answered with a laugh.

Millie carefully hid the carpet squares and thus far Grace’s hat was still safe. She was about to get them out when the front door opened and a voice called out.

“Mailman!”

She fell against a chair in her haste to reach the front of the shop. Her hands went out to save her from a fall and swept the Tiffany lamp on the adjoining table into oblivion.

“Oh damn!” she cried amidst the sound of breaking glass and crashing metal.

“What’s that? Are you okay?” the mailman called as he hurried to her side.

Sprawled across the chair and table with her arms and legs askew, she looked up at him sheepishly. “Only my pride and that lamp are hurt. I’m sorry,” she said and struggled to get up.

“Can I help?” he asked. He reached out as if to take her arm, but stopped uncertainly and waited while she put herself back together. “I hope that wasn’t an expensive lamp.”

“I don’t know.” She reached into the wreckage and found the price tag. “Oh well, just a little bit. One hundred eighty five dollars.”

“Will you have to pay for it?” he asked anxiously.

She sat down heavily on the offending chair. “I don’t know. My boss will be upset, but I’ve broken a couple of small things and it’s been all right.”

“What happened? What were you doing?”

Her face flushed and she struggled for a simple, obscure answer that wasn’t a lie. “I was coming to see who was at the door,” she finally said.

“Oh. I called, didn’t you hear me?”

“I thought it was you but I wasn’t sure. You never know who’s in the store, you know. It could be a thief.”

“That’s not good. It could be dangerous for you,” he said quickly. He looked around at the mess and at the rest of the shop and suddenly seemed to remember the envelopes in his hand. “Here’s the mail.”

She took it from him, careful not to touch him as she did. “Thank you. You could have left it on one of the tables in the front.”

“I didn’t want to do that. You never know who’s in the store. Someone might steal it,” he said.

“Oh, you’re right. I never thought of that,”

“Can I help clean up?”

“You’d better get going. People will be complaining about their mail being late,” she said with a shy smile.

He laughed. “Grace said the same thing the other day. She was worried about old Sam Johnson at the gas station.”

“Well then you’d better go,” she said again.

“Yeah, I guess so.” He didn’t twitch a muscle. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

She nodded vehemently. “Absolutely. You’d better go or you’ll be in trouble.”

“I’ll be fine, but you’re right. I’ll see you tomorrow,” he said and half backed, half stumbled out of the shop, almost knocking over a chair as he left.

She sat staring after him with a dreamy look on her face and tender thoughts in her head. “I’ll be here,” she whispered.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

RC Bonitzhttp://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenziehttps://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Deborah Marie Dera:  www.deborahdera.com

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The Spot Writers – “Of Hospitals and High Schools,” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month is to write a letter from one character to another about a third character. This prompt is perfect for Val Muller, author of this week’s post: she’s currently writing draft 1 of a new young adult novel, editing her upcoming YA title The Girl Who Flew Away, and getting ready to work with an editor on a forthcoming second title, The Man with the Crystal Ankh, so she’s already got several characters and storylines floating around her head. You can find out more at www.ValMuller.com.

Of Hospitals and High Schools

By Val Muller

Dear Rey,

I heard you got in trouble at school the other day. Hey, being in the hospital all day gives me plenty of time to scroll through the social media feeds and stalk basically everyone.

You should know by now that if you’re going to arrive late to Trinity High, you’d better bring a cup of coffee for Mrs. Spencer. She likes the fancy stuff, too. Everyone knows that.

But that’s not why I’m writing. I heard you have a bigger problem than Mrs. “Attendance Queen” Spencer. I heard you rubbed admin the wrong way, and now the principal is on your back. I thought I’d share a rumor I heard.

And keep in mind, it’s only a rumor.

Depending on what you believe.

So my friend goes to this other high school. It’s called Hollow Oak. There’s this creep of an assistant principal there that would make your administration look like saints. At least, that’s how Sarah tells it. She thinks this guy’s evil—and I do mean evil. Like a hundred years old evil. Like, Poltergeist and The Omen evil.

She says he goes after souls.

Just for the record, Sarah sees ghosts. Or so she claims. And I can vouch for her. She doesn’t touch drugs. Her mind is a scary enough place. No, seriously. When she concentrates real hard—like when she plays the violin—she sees ghosts and stuff, and one of the ghosts told her about Evil Dude.

So anyway, I was thinking: Evil Dude is hungry for souls. You have some administrators giving you a hard time. I’m thinking win-win, right? We’ll just contact Sarah, give her the names of the administrators at your school you’d like to, um, dispose of, and maybe they make a nice snack for Evil Dude. Then Evil Dude leaves Sarah alone, you get the administrators off your back…and me?

What’s in it for me?

I’m sure you heard I’m in the hospital after all that’s happened. Broken bones are no fun. I didn’t know how tired they made you. But I have nothing better to do than sit here and think about stuff—your conflict with the principal, Sarah’s conflict with the supernatural.

At this point, I’m thinking of setting Evil Dude out on my sister. She so deserves it. How many times she forced me to lie to my parents in the past few days alone. She’s the reason I’m in here, after all… but then again, she is my sister. So before I send Evil Dude out to get her, I wanted to see what would happen. I mean, would he totally obliterate her, or maybe just rough her up some? So, like, maybe we could test it out on someone you don’t like—like your principal. Or whoever.

Just let me know how it goes.

Or if you know of someone else looking for a way to take care of an enemy… I text Sarah all the time. Just let me know.

Hope this letter makes sense. I can’t tell you what all they have me on for the pain and all the rest.

By the way, I heard your grandfather’s here in the cancer ward. Sorry to hear that. Seriously, give him my best. That alone should give you a permanent tardy pass, by the way. Anyway.

The next time you visit him, stop by to see me if I’m still here. It gets lonely. What a way to round out freshman year.

Fondly,

Steffie

***

The Spot Writers—our members:

RC Bonitz: rcbonitz.com

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Deborah Marie Dera: www.deborahdera.com

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The Spot Writers – “Shadow Dance” by Cathy MacKenzie

This month’s prompt is to write about a car. The story this week comes from Cathy MacKenzie, who has chosen a story from one of her two recently published compilations of short stories titled Paper Patches (short fiction for women). Paper Patches is available from Smashwords for $2.99: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/461342

Cathy’s second book, Broken Cornstalks, is also available from Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/459035

 

Shadow Dance

At the restaurant, in between mouthfuls of Thai chicken bites and Caesar salad, I take stock of Dan, my husband. I’m startled to notice how much thicker—and darker—his hair seems. Has he dyed his white hair a tawny brown? His face, once etched with deep furrows and spattered with red blotches, is smoother than I remembered. His now-burnished skin glows as if he’s spent too much time outdoors.

When we arrive home, I glimpse my own face in the hall mirror, a face I almost don’t recognize. I stare at the drawn reflection bordered with wispy whitish hair. Crows’ feet fan from the outer corners of my sunken eyes, and fleshy bags perch beneath dwindling lower lashes. My jowls sag like soggy dishrags pinned to the clothesline on a breezeless day.

I sense Dan’s presence and move away from the mirror. He stares at me as if he hasn’t seen me before, just as I seemingly viewed him for the first time earlier at the restaurant. I want to hide my face in shame. Does he see tell-tale age on me? Will he search out someone younger? Or has he already?

Without a word, he turns and sprints to the garage to work on his vehicles, specifically his ’65 Mustang. He cherishes that car, caring for it as a mother would her newborn. I’ve spied on him in the past while he caressed its smooth, firm body. I’ve seen him tenderly slide a soapy cloth across the surface and, after carefully spraying off the suds, lovingly rub on the oil paste as if applying sunscreen over a svelte young woman. I’ve watched while he polished the frame to a radiant sheen.

I often wonder what goes through his mind while he continually kneads an ever-immaculate chassis into gloss shimmering like a new black patent shoe. Does he think of me? Someone else? Or is he too immersed to think of anything?

While I watch his backside vanish down the hall, I debate whether to follow. Instead, I remain in the kitchen and gaze around the recently redecorated room—the stark black granite, the matching stainless steel appliances, the resurfaced cupboard doors—and wonder where life begins and ends. Similar to puffs of smoke on a windy day, my years disappeared too fast. What good are material possessions? What happens to us and to those in our past when we’re gone?

Where will that car go? Who will treasure that vehicle as my husband does?

More importantly, who will cherish me when he’s gone? He’ll depart first. If not, I’m certain I’ll live longer than a dratted car that gobbles up his time and money.

A force of courage propels me to again peer into the mirror. The features are displayed before me, etched for all-time in that rectangle of recently cleaned glass. Mirrors don’t lie—they never did; they never will. My eyes can lower to hide what they don’t want to acknowledge; I can’t be scarred by what I can’t see, but unfortunately, I’ve already seen it. I already know. Tearing out my eyes won’t make the years disappear. Time has taken its rightful place. Obvious age has attached itself, and there’s nothing left once those deadly talons have latched.

Maybe luck would have been on my side had Dan succeeded in blinding me that day many years ago. The searing liquid hit me square in the face but didn’t penetrate into my eyes when, instinctively, they closed tight. No one can touch that car of his—except him, of course; I learned that the hard way.

Perhaps not being blinded was my downfall. Had I been blinded that day, I wouldn’t be able to see today how horribly I’ve morphed over the years. I’d forever remember me when I was twenty-five, when I was still desirable.

What happened a few minutes ago when Dan saw me by the mirror? Did he suddenly encounter an old woman instead of his once-young, pretty wife? Or had he even seen my beauty those many years previously? Perhaps he’s only ever had eyes for his Mustang, for he’s owned that vehicle longer than me. That car’s family, after all. Not to mention the car has retained its beauty and grace throughout the years; its appearance has never changed, thanks to his meticulousness.

I sneak down the hallway and open the door to the off-limits garage. The Mustang leers at me—the headlights glare and the grill sneers like fangs. The body shines as one titanic twinkling star, revealing reflections of youth and lust. At the far end of the triple-car garage, Dan holds a blow torch, hard at work on an old Chevy. He doesn’t hear the door’s creak nor does he see me enter the forbidden room.

When I stumble over a pile of car parts, I lunge to the Mustang rather than tumble to the concrete, where I would chance a bone fracture.

The racket jars Dan from his intense labours. “What you doin’!”  he shrieks. “Get off my car!”

I jump back. But it’s too late. My body and greasy fingerprints have marred the gloss of his favourite friend. Within mere seconds, before I realize he’s leaped in front of me, I feel the heat—hotter than anything I’ve ever experienced previously.

“Take that, you.…” The rest of his words are garbled. Someone else might have been able to decipher them, but not me.

 

The Spot Writers:

 

RC Bonitz

http://www.rcbonitz.com

 

Val Muller

http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

 

Catherine A. MacKenzie

https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

 

Kathy Price

http://www.kathylprice.com

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